BMJ editor stands by attack on way drug firms use PR

The editor of the British Medical Journal has defended last week’s controversial issue, which branded the relationship between doctors and pharma firms and the use of promotional activity as ‘grubby’.

MJ editor Richard Smith this week reiterated criticisms of the way drug companies use PR to influence doctors.

He went as far as to say that: ‘Doctors, drug companies and patients would benefit from greater distance between doctors and drug companies.

‘How did we reach a point where so many doctors won’t attend an educational meeting unless it’s accompanied by free food and a bag of goodies?’

The issue was guest-edited by US-based healthcare journalist Ray Moynihan, who this week defended the decision not to use comments from the pharma companies’ trade body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

He said the ABPI comments were ‘bland’, adding: ‘I wish the industry would engage more with debate and steer away from responses [which] are too often rendered lifeless by being put through the wringer of PR [departments].’

ABPI head of media relations Richard Ley said: ‘It was impossible to fully engage with the BMJ articles, as we weren’t shown them [in advance of publication].’

Angie Wiles, chairman of the Healthcare Communications Association, the trade body for private-sector healthcare PROs, said the BMJ’s attacks related to ‘wider issues, including the conduct of sales reps and other aspects of the marketing mix’.

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